The Wolverines’ offense operated with ease, sinking one three-pointer after another. Their ball movement was pristine, and perhaps the most impressive part of Michigan’s performance was that star freshman center Hunter Dickinson hardly factored into his team’s success. Senior forward Isaiah Livers led the Wolverines (12-1, 7-1) with 20 points, but contributions came from across the roster.
Michigan, the second-highest-ranked team in the Big Ten (behind No. 4 Iowa), lost for the first time Saturday at Minnesota, and the Wolverines marched into Crisler Center on Tuesday unwilling to lose again. The Terps (8-7, 2-6) could not compete with the versatile Wolverines, who got the better of the visitors in nearly every aspect of the game.
The most glaring discrepancy came from behind the arc, where Michigan made 12 of 24 attempts. Six Wolverines had a three-pointer, and Michigan shot 51.8 percent from the field. Maryland’s perimeter defense has struggled this season, and on Tuesday the Terps couldn’t come close to matching that level of production on the offensive end, either. Maryland made just 4 of 19 attempts from three-point range.
“I thought we were a half-step slow tonight,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “Maybe it was just Michigan. I thought Michigan was terrific. They’re really hard to guard. Low post, if you don’t double them, they score on you. If you double them, they can shoot threes. They shot the ball terrific tonight and moved the ball great. And then we were just a little off.”
Even though four Terps scored in double figures — including 12 points off the bench by Eric Ayala, who returned after missing two games because of a groin injury — Maryland never trailed by fewer than 17 points in the second half.
The Terps managed to contain Dickinson, the 7-foot-1 center and former DeMatha standout who scored 26 points in the teams’ previous meeting. He didn’t score until early in the second half after only attempting two shots in the first. But when facing double teams, Dickinson found open shooters on the perimeter, which helped fuel the Wolverines’ hot start. Michigan made its first five attempts from three-point range, including three by Mike Smith in the first five minutes.
Maryland started the game by air-balling a layup and then struggled to make shots against Michigan’s stingy defense. The Terps turned the ball over four times in the first five minutes, and the Wolverines quickly built a double-digit lead. In the first half, Maryland missed five free throws, including two that were on the front end of a one-and-one. The Terps tried to hold on without letting Michigan soar ahead, but when halftime arrived, they trailed by 17, with a three-pointer from Franz Wagner serving as the dagger before the break.
The Wolverines hit eight three-pointers in the first half, compared with only two by Maryland. On the first possession of the second half, Michigan’s Eli Brooks made a three, indicative of a dominance that continued as the second half progressed. Maryland’s start to the second half, senior guard Darryl Morsell said, was more bothersome than the game’s opening minutes.
“They were making everything the first six minutes,” he said, referring to the early stretch when the Wolverines jumped to a 17-3 lead. “We were there. Some of the stuff was out of our control. But in the second half, when we were down, I feel like we could have fought more and just gave a little bit more effort, regardless of the score. So that was probably more disappointing.”
When the Terps faced Michigan at Xfinity Center three weeks ago, Maryland eventually grabbed a narrow lead early in the second half before collapsing as the Wolverines surged to an emphatic win. In Tuesday’s rematch, Michigan scored the first eight points and Maryland never had the lead.
“They’ve beaten the heck out of everybody in this building almost,” Turgeon said. “I just wish we would have shot it a little better, made a few more layups, made a few more open threes and made our free throws. I think we could have competed a little bit more. And maybe then our defense would have been a little bit better.”
The Terps have just two conference wins, and their NCAA tournament hopes fade further with each additional loss. Maryland has faced many of the teams settling into spots at the top of the conference, yet the Terps managed to earn impressive wins at Wisconsin and Illinois. They traveled to Michigan with the same aspirations, but Tuesday’s game ended with blank stares from the players on the bench and a clearer view of how much they need to improve.